Some parents will immediately find the four red flags useful and funny, those for whom the habits of the naughty child are already familiar. We know when our family train has run off the rails.  Reading the short list brings a brief pause, a “yes, indeed” deep breath.  We think of the children we love. We recognize ourselves.


“Emergency!” we quietly scream.  “Mayday!  All hands on deck!”


When parents spot a red flag, it’s time to double-back and strategize.

  1.  Silent defiance. Head turned slightly, chin almost touching shoulder, tongue pushing out on cheek.  This gesture is most common in girls, but can occur in both sexes.
  2.  Slow blink.  This stony expression appears when a young person is given an undesirable direction from an adult.  The loved child stares impassively, blinking with exaggerated slowness.
  3.  Failure to respond.  If the child does not have the amateur poker player’s “tell” (averted eyes, slight shift in position, brief hesitation) when her name is called, things are bad.  It will be a long haul back to respect.
  4.  Hair Flip.  This gesture is most common in adolescence.  Younger children twirl and pull; adolescents flip.  Young people flipping or twirling their hair as they “listen” to their parents are, in most cases, bored, entitled and indifferent, passing the time while we prattle on.

Faced with a red flag, parents should seek counsel. Meditate or pray in the manner that is your custom. We should love with high expectations, reasonable consequences, the structure and confidence-building strength only discipline can provide.


Kids need and deserve that kind of love.